High school wrestler returns to the mat after concussion

Return-to-play plan included physical, occupational and speech therapy

A high school student speaks in a lab with a Sanford Health athletic trainer while both wear face masks during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Brian Vyska had just started wrestling practice in November, his sophomore year at Legacy High School in Bismarck, North Dakota. He was feeling great after just finishing up his football season and was ready to hit the mat for his first wrestling season at Legacy.

The first couple of practices went just as planned, until he encountered a hit that would later result in a concussion.

“I had a constant headache and everything seemed so much brighter and louder,” said Brian Vyska, currently a junior at Legacy High School. “Everything just felt off. Anxiety was the worst. Just out of nowhere I’d have random flashes of anxiety.”

Heads up: Concussion Services at Sanford Health

When his symptoms didn’t improve, Brian met with his athletic trainer.

“And from some of the things that he was describing to me, it sounded more concussion related,” said Jordan Davis, a Sanford Health athletic trainer at Legacy High School. “So, from there that’s when we took him through our concussion evaluation process.”

Evaluating a concussion

The concussion evaluation process consists of assessing 22 different symptoms.

“I couldn’t pass that for the life of me,” said Brian. “I think I ended up failing it four times.”

“That’s what led us to then see that there was a concussion present,” Davis said.

Brian was then referred to the Sanford Bismarck Concussion Clinic.

“We established the concussion clinic so that patients who sustain a concussion can be evaluated and get into additional therapies if needed,” said Dr. Jon Kolberg, a sports medicine physician at Sanford Health in Bismarck.

After seeing Brian in December, Dr. Kolberg knew he needed physical, occupational and speech therapies.

“What we want to do is make sure any other contributing factors of their symptoms be dealt with through therapies,” said Dr. Kolberg.

Therapy after a concussion

Going through therapies is all a blur to Brian when he tries to look back on them. In fact, he says he can’t even remember what his physical therapist looked like or sounded like. However, he does remember his initial therapy sessions being very challenging.

“That was extremely difficult with a concussion,” said Brian. “I couldn’t really do any of it during my first session. And it was easy stuff like pointing out objects on a board. And I could maybe get halfway through before time would run out.”

After about a month of therapies, Brian’s therapists began seeing significant improvement.

“The sooner that we can address those other contributing factors, the sooner the patient can get back to minimal symptoms and return to daily life activities,” said Dr. Kolberg.

Which was true for Brian. By the end of January, one month after he was referred to the concussion clinic, he was cleared for full activity and participated in a wrestling tournament in Fargo, North Dakota.

“Physical therapy plays an important role in concussion rehabilitation,” said Michelle Keller, physical therapist at Sanford Health in Bismarck.

“Oftentimes there are underlying concerns such as dizziness, visual changes, higher level balance impairments and reduced tolerance to exercise that at times can be missed. As physical therapists, we are able to evaluate and treat all of these areas, which in the end will result in a smoother and hopefully quicker return to sport for the athlete.”

Today, Brian feels great. He once again went out for football and wrestling at Legacy. For Brian and his parents, it’s comforting for them to know that Sanford Health has a dedicated athletic trainer like Jordan Davis at Legacy to look after Brian and other athletes in the school.

“We’re here as that first point of contact,” Davis said. “Instead of having a coach get a hold of someone to take them into the clinic, we’re here. We spend a lot of time educating our coaches and athletic directors so that if we aren’t physically at that game or practice that they are aware of what those concussion symptoms are so those athletes can see us right away.”

Learn more

Posted In Bismarck, Brain & Spine, Rehabilitation & Therapy, Sports Medicine

Leave A Reply